THE SCIENCE OF KINDNESS
Kindness is more than just a ‘nice thing to do’. It plays a crucial role in our well-being. Research has shown that kindness improves our physical and mental health – whether we’re giving kindness, receiving kindness or even just witnessing kindness. How amazing is that?
Kindness can help us feel happier
When we experience kindness, a hormone called dopamine is released in our brain which gives us a feeling of elevation and lifts our mood – it’s often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
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Kindness is good for the heart
Have you noticed that when you are kind to someone that you feel good inside? Acts of kindness are often accompanied by a feeling of emotional warmth which in turn produces the hormone oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which expands our blood vessels, reduces blood pressure and protects our heart.
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Kindness slows ageing
Kindness has been shown to slow down the ageing process. Remarkable research found that oxytocin can reduce levels of free radicals and inflammation (two main culprits of ageing) in our cardiovascular system, which slows ageing at the source.
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Kindness improves relationships
We tend to like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and makes us feel more ‘bonded’. Our evolutionary ancestors had to learn to cooperate with one another. The stronger the emotional bonds within groups, the greater were the chances of survival and so ‘kindness genes’ were etched into the human genome. So today, when we are kind to each other, we feel a connection that strengthens our existing relationships and helps us to create new ones.
Kindness is contagious
Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards. When we are kind, we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – that’s an amazing three degrees of separation! This means that when you are kind to one person, that one act of kindness will positively affect up to 125 people!
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DID YOU KNOW?
Kindness is teachable – it’s like weight training!
People can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others suffering with care and a desire to help.
Kindness can boost your energy levels
About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth.
Source: Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center
Kindness can relieve pain
Kindness produces endorphins, which are the brain’s natural painkiller.
Kindness can reduce stress
Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) than the average population.
Source: Integrative Psychological and Behavioural Science, 1998.